Obama Sworn in as 44th President of U.S.
Tuesday, January 20, 2009; 5:03 PM
Barack Obama took the oath of office today as the 44th president of the United States and pledged to "begin again the work of remaking America."
Addressing a huge throng estimated at nearly 2 million people on the capital's Mall and millions of others watching on television, Obama somberly recognized the multiple crises now afflicting the nation at a time of war abroad and economic turmoil at home. But he sought to rally Americans to a "new era of responsibility" and the promise of a brighter future.
He cited a profound "sapping of confidence across our land -- a nagging fear that America's decline is inevitable, and that the next generation must lower its sights." He told Americans, "The challenges we face are real. They are serious, and they are many. They will not be met easily or in a short span of time."
"But know this, America -- they will be met," he declared to cheers from the crowd. "On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord. On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn-out dogmas that for far too long have strangled our politics."
Obama continued: "Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America."
Later, after a lunch at the Capitol in which Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) suffered a seizure, Obama and the new first lady, Michelle Obama, rode in motorcade to the White House and twice stepped out of their heavily armored black limousine to walk parts of the 1.7-mile route and wave to cheering crowds.
As the motorcade reached the section of Pennsylvania Avenue that runs past the National Archives and the Navy Memorial, the Obamas got out and walked for about eight minutes. They subsequently took another walk of about six minutes, greeting well-wishers who stood behind barriers. The president wore a black overcoat, burgundy scarf and black gloves to ward off the late-afternoon chill, with the temperature hovering around 28 degrees, but the wind chill making it feel more like 16 degrees.
Police and troops lined the route, and Secret Service agents walked alongside the presidential limo behind a phalanx of police motorcycles with sidecars in "V" formation.
Obama, 47, began the final steps on his journey to the presidency this morning by attending a church service and paying a visit to White House for coffee.
The countdown to Obama's oath-taking came as Americans gathered in Washington in record numbers for the inauguration, braving midwinter cold and heavy security to witness an event -- the swearing-in of the nation's first African American president -- that for many marked a dramatic break with the past and the dawn of a new sense of possibility.
In his much-anticipated inaugural address, Obama sketched out a broad vision for the coming years in domestic policy, while urging rejection of the "false choice" in foreign policy between security and American ideals.
After an invocation by Pastor Rick Warren, a conservative who was included as a way to reach out to a segment of the population that did not support Obama, Joseph R. Biden Jr. took the oath as vice president.